Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

We Must Bring Salvation Back

It feels good to see the characters from I'll Be There again, but this reunion just triggers nostalgia for the past.

We Must Bring Salvation Back

BOOK REPORT FOR Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Cover Story: Well, Somebody At the Printer Just Got Fired
BFF Charms: Meh, Sassy Gay Friend
Adoption Certificate: Hell Yes
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Clinical Observer
Bonus Factor: Charles Wallace
Relationship Status: Rebound

Cover Story: Well, Somebody At the Printer Just Got Fired

Since this cover has absolutely NOTHING to do with the book, I can only assume that there was some kind of mix-up at the printer, and Just Call My Name ended up with another book's cover, and now some poor shmuck is out of a job. I mean, that's the only rational explanation for why a girl running through a field in an inspirational manner would end up on the cover of a book where that never happens. Right? Right.

The Deal:

If you haven't read I'll Be There, you might as well stop right now, because continuing on with a review of the sequel would just be silly.

Only a few months have passed since we last saw Sam, Riddle and Emily. The Bell family is in the process of adopting both brothers, who now live in a nearby apartment, while Emily and Sam continue to be wonderfully in love. But all too soon, cracks emerge in their happy ending. Sam, overwhelmed by the world of college, can't shake the doubt and shame of his past, and when a new girl named Destiny rolls into town, his connection with her seems to prove that he doesn't deserve Emily.

Meanwhile, Clarence Border stews behind prison bars, which can't contain his thirst for vengeance much longer…

BFF Charms: Meh, Sassy Gay Friend

There's no doubt that Emily is a stand-up girl, but I never really got to know her in the first book. And unfortunately, this sequel didn't afford me much more of an opportunity. She's thoughtful, practical and smart, and her compassion is admirable, but even after undergoing some harrowing experiences together, she and I failed to develop any level of intimacy.

Given my not-so-platonic feelings for Sam in the first book, I can't quite believe that I'm now awarding him this charm, but it has to be done. Because Sam,

Dude. I get that you've got a lot of baggage. And I get that your transition to normal life is difficult, because you don't even know what normal is. But quit beating yourself up about everything! That "I'm bad news" routine gets old real fast, and even your smokin' hot good looks can't justify all of the moping you do in this book. So buck up, camper! And while you're at it, learn how to tell girls that you're not interested, because you're going to have to do that a LOT in the future. (I mean, except to me, obviously. Because as soon as you shape up, I'm switching this charm for one With Benefits.)

Adoption Certificate: Hell Yes

Riddle, my darling Riddle! With your strangely logical mind and your heart-melting sweetness, you handily continue your reign as the best character in this story. And then you go and decide that reading is your favorite, and I CAN'T EVEN. Is kidnapping a crime when it involves a fictional person? Because the Bells better watch out.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

This rating is a pretty big drop from the first book's score, which is obviously disappointing. Sure, the uncertainty of Emily and Sam's relationship played a major part in amping up the romance in I'll Be There, but I would've been perfectly content to savor their togetherness in the sequel. Instead, we get about two pages of starry-eyed bliss before everything goes to shizz. The bond between the two of them remains epically intense (thank god, otherwise I'd be sending a Strongly Worded Email to Ms. Goldberg Sloan) but this book remains firmly and unfortunately on the outskirts of Tingletown.

Talky Talk: Clinical Observer

When I read I'll Be There, I was immediately struck by Holly Goldberg Sloan's singular style of third-person narration, which feels so atypical for YA. She jumps from character to character, tapping into their minds and exposing a kaleidoscope of emotions while maintaining a consistent, almost detached tone. There's something cinematic in her omniscience, which makes sense given her screenwriting credits, and it allows the plot to make a few outlandish leaps without blinking an eye. But whereas the first book seethed with feeling, the sequel lacks the rawness necessary to break that third-person barrier between the reader and the characters. Even the most dynamic of figures, Clarence, who was so electrifying (and terrifying) in I'll Be There, feels distant this time around, making him almost cartoonish, while new girl Destiny's lack of depth results in a caricature of desperation and hormones.

Bonus Factor: Charles Wallace

Only one character truly shines in this book, and I'm so glad it's Riddle. Now that he speaks with regularity, we get even more insights into his perceptive mind, and his struggle to piece the world together through reading is both inspiring and heartbreaking. I LOVE YOU BOO.

Casting Call:

Meghan already (perfectly) cast Clarence in her review, so I'll handle the rest.

Katie Findlay as Emily

??? as Sam

After spending waaaay too much time trying to find the perfect actor to play Sam, I've realized that his casting is impossible. No actual human being can handle his hotness or his soulfulness, so we'll just have to leave this one to our imagination. (To which she responded, "Gladly!")

Deke Garner as Riddle

Isabel Durant as Destiny

Isabel has perfected the role of The Devil on Dance Academy, so she'd be perfect as the gorgeous, tiny troublemaker Destiny.

Relationship Status: Rebound

After getting hot and heavy with I'll Be There, I couldn't wait to rekindle the flame with Just Call My Name. But even though I enjoyed spending time with Sam, Riddle and Emily again, it just didn't feel the same. I wanted this novel to fill the void of its precursor, but ultimately it paled in comparison and only served to remind me of how much I miss I'll Be There. (Fortunately, it's only a book shelf away. Baby, let's get back together!)

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free e-copy of this book from Little, Brown. I received neither cocktails nor money in exchange for this review. Just Call My Name is available now.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).